Smile … an everlasting smile

I smile a lot. You might even say I’m a positive little joy germ … I’ve even been known to sing first thing in the morning. I see this as a great way to greet the day, others find it annoying. But I can’t help it, it’s just how I am. My rellies call me Tigger after the irrepressible bouncing tiger in the AA Milne’s wonderful Winnie the Pooh stories. Hopefully you get the picture? I’m one of nature’s smilers. Or at least I used to be. Life kind of got in the way for a while there and it felt as if Tigger had bounced up one tree too many and got stuck. Happily — smilingly — Tigger’s back bouncing around on the ground searching for adventure.

But my point? Other than smiling, walking is one of my great joys in life. When I walk I think, I process, I solve problems and dream up ideas. Some people smile while they dial. Me, I smile while I walk. Weird you might say, but why not? Walking makes me feel great, all I have to do is leave my house to do it. I usually walk in glorious places which make my heart sing and, even better, it’s usually free. What’s not to smile about? So what if I look like some scary humanoid version of the Cheshire Cat to the rest of the world?

But I think smiling’s great and an encounter I had a couple of weeks ago is a perfect example of why. Picture the scene. I was striding happily along the waterfront near my home, inhaling the beauty of a glorious day and enjoying the antics of the canines on parade. I’m wearing scabby old exercise clothes, but I figure glam shades, some violent red lippy make up for that … and the beaming smile. Of course, most people scuttle away when this apparition goes past. A few manage a muted ‘Hi’ in response to my breezy greeting — usually this comes with all the enthusiasm that you might put into acknowledging a slimy thing that’s just crawled out from under a stone. Sad … as he who should not be named would say.

Why are people so afraid? That a smile is the façade for an out of control lunatic? That they might somehow get caught up in my life if they smile back? That I’m on the make?Makes me think I need to carry a placard, “Really it’s OK. I’m smiling at you because I’m having a Zip-A-De-Doo-Dah day. I’m high on the sun, the sparkly sea, all those wonderful dogs, the way the rhythms of walking make my body feel and, by the way, I would like to share my joy with you.” Don’t other people feel the same?

Imagine my surprise  when I find a kindred spirit in amongst all the avoidance — another happy smiling face. I see her dog first. I love dogs (in case you missed that) but there are some breeds I particularly like and hers happens to be one of them. Patrocles (as I find out he’s called) is a liver spotted Dalmatian that would have given the leads in 101 Dalmationsa run for their money in terms of street appeal. I turn to compliment the women on the gorgeousness which is her dog and ask if I can pat him. That’s when I really clock her. She’s staring out over the water with a radiant smile that would make Julia Robert’s best look dim. I take it she’s as intoxicated by the day as I am. She turns to answer my question … our eyes meet … and we share a ‘moment’ as we acknowledge that we both get it. That whatever else is going on in our lives (and it’s not been a good year on a number of counts in mine) we’re smiling because right now, in this moment, the world is a wonderful place. Even Patrocles is smiling!

Anyway, after mouthing platitudes about dogs and the loveliness of the day, we have that conversation about why people look away when you smile at them. Then, a little reluctantly it has to be said, I walk on. But somehow, I can’t let the moment pass and turn back because I want to tell her she’s made my day with her beautiful energy. It’s the same for her she says. I pat the pooch again and continue on my walk feeling good at having had such a random and uplifting encounter.

It really did make my day and I’m still smiling thinking about it. Was such a good reminder of how much we can influence our world through the energy we bring and the simple gift of an open and genuine smile. So smile people, because nothing shakes the smiling heart and remember that happiness looks gorgeous on you. As Chris Hart said, “All the statistics in the world can’t measure the warmth of a smile.”

So get your smiley face on and dazzle everyone you meet. Tough shit if some people think you’re deranged. You’ll have a great day and hopefully also make those of of the people you cross paths with.

Happy World Smile Day!

(5 October 2018)

 

 

 

Happiness is a warm puppy

As I shivered getting up this morning, I thought about something from my childhood that always managed to bring some warmth on raw winter days in the Scottish Highlands where I grew up.

My family were all fans of the wonderful Peanuts cartoons by Charles M Schultz and we had several books. By a long way my favourite was called Happiness is a Warm Puppy. We were a family of dog lovers and that naturally extended to loving the Snoopy character. I remember someone saying once that anyone who said they didn’t know what happiness is could never have seen a puppy.  I’d have to say that has always been bang on the money for me. I don’t currently have a dog but I’m teetering distance from a foreshore walk which is nirvana for our all manner of hounds, their owners and dog obsessive voyeurs like me.

Before you get to thinking I’m totally weird, I actually can’t help myself according to a wonderfully liberating article I just read in the Telegraph archive. Apparently it’s all to do with the hormone oxytocin which spikes in both human and canine brains when a dog is gazing at it’s owner.  According to the writer, Sarah Knapton, “Oxytocin is known to play a strong role in triggering feelings of unconditional love and protection when parents and children look into each other’s eyes or embrace.So the findings suggest that owners love their pets in the same way as family members, and dogs return their devoted affection.”

Back in the day when my friends were having kids and I couldn’t join in those endless conversations parents have one-upping each other about the undoubted virtues of their little darlings. Stuck for any way of contributing meaningfully to such conversations, on one occasion, I resorted to referencing my amazing and hugely talented ‘fur baby’ and how well his training was going. I realised quickly and viscerally, as someone handed me my head in my hands to play with, that dogs are just not up there with human children to their parents, however incredible us owners think they are.

All these years later, I feel totally exonerated because it’s proven … by scientists no less … that we humans really can love our dogs as much as our children, something Cat Stevens recognised way ahead of science in his song 70s classic I Love My Dog as Much As I Love You!